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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

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Brazilian legend Ronaldo supports France to defend title

Former Brazilian star Ronaldo says he cannot fall behind his country’s great sporting rival Argentina at the World Cup, backing France as “big favourites” to retain their title.

Lionel Messi may have one last chance to lift the one major trophy missing from his collection, but Ronaldo will not be rooting for the South Americans in Tuesday’s semi-final against Croatia.

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“I’m not going to be a hypocrite and say I’ll be happy for Argentina” if they win the World Cup, Ronaldo said. “But I see football as a romantic. And I will appreciate every champion.”

“Since the beginning, my prediction has always been that Brazil and France will be in the final,” the two-time World Cup winner told media outlets, including AFP, during a roundtable in Doha.

“Brazil is no more. But France, game after game, is backing up their status as favorites and I still see them as the big favourites.”

Ronaldo, who scored both goals in the 2002 World Cup final against Germany, expects France to beat surprise semi-finalists Morocco on Wednesday.

“I would really like (Morocco to win) but I don’t think they will. I think France has a very solid team, be it defensively, offensively or in midfield,” said the two-time former Ballon d’Or winner.

Ronaldo is particularly impressed by Kylian Mbappé, the top scorer of the tournament in Qatar with five goals.

“He knows how to use his skills, how to go faster than the others. And he uses them to provide assists or to score,” said Ronaldo, who expects 23-year-old Mbappé to break numerous records.

“He’s got the time, the skills, he’s thirsty and he’s got the talent to conquer anything, that’s for sure.”

Ronaldo paid tribute to Morocco’s performance after the Atlas Lions became the first African side to reach a World Cup semi-final and the first Arab team to do so.

“It is a beautiful football story that an African team is in the semi-finals of a World Cup,” he said. “I saw the reactions in Morocco, what football gives us is very nice.”

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